OR.

A tiny word, just two letters. But a word of enormous implications. It is literally pivotal, and sometimes the only thing between right and wrong. Good and bad. Healthy and unhealthy. Wise and foolish.

OR is fundamental into most moments and most days. We stop at Starbucks OR we don’t. We do? Perhaps we are a bit late. Perhaps we spend the $10.00 that we would be better not spending. Perhaps we take in calories it would be better to avoid.

or

Woven throughout so much of our journey, we have OR junctures, and we often –  even mostly – zip right past them without too much thought, and usually get it right. Even if we don’t, the cost isn’t too high: We get up (make the bed OR not? This outfit OR that? Breakfast OR not? Vitamins, yes OR no?) We head out for errands, work, volunteer (Make time for the gym, OR not? Take this route OR that? Stay in this lane, OR change?) You get it. You live it.

And then there are big OR times…these we realize have implications of huge import, and we weigh lots of factors and consider outcomes. Things like get married OR not? Have a baby OR wait? Send the little one to this kindergarten OR that? Big university OR small…rural OR city… You get it. You live it.

There are also categories of OR that we think we don’t have to consider but later realize we should have. Things like sunscreen OR not? Eat dessert nightly OR not? Dinner out frequently OR not? And twenty years later, we realize the better answer as we deal with basil cells, added pounds or smaller bank accounts. You get it. You live it.

 

ORs are a hard thing for us betrayeds. You see, we think the decision to step out of the bounds of the relationship you have established as exclusive is one that should have been weighed, and the outcomes should have been considered. We struggle with the early steps of cheating: when the cheater first signed up for a dating site. When he wrote up a Craigslist ad. When he opened the door at a certain establishment. When he first had a conversation with someone that niggled at his soul a bit because he knew it was slightly out-of-bounds…but made him feel good. When he chose to share his cell phone and exchange text messages or set up an alternate email or agreed to meet at the art museum. Each one of those steps, those moments wasn’t OR screaming don’t forget me! Don’t forget there is an OR and there will be fallout from this step and this step and this step?!!

We betrayeds don’t understand how OR didn’t shake him up, how he could make this momentous occasion a zip-past-the-moment time and just stepped right on into his betrayal. Maybe it did…and he did it anyway after weighing it all? And the Other Woman, too…she was faced with OR after OR after OR and kept choosing the OR that lead to deception and pain and rippled out from there.

cheatingchoice

Nearly two years out, and HUSBAND has searched his heart and mind and soul. He can’t really answer this one – how he had the OR minutes and junctures and just simply ignored it little  moment by little moment until he was making that call and sending that text and meeting that woman and taking off his clothes and it may be one of the areas I have to know that I don’t know and never can or will know. He admits he had to quell it, but he can’t explain now how he did. It is one of those haunting thoughts that tugs at my soul, because I, too, have had those OR moments. And I chose him. I chose us. I chose honor.

So OR…speak up. Shake up. Don’t give up. And may we become a people who give you a voice – you are wiser than we want to admit…

forever

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AHEAD – A-Z Challenge, Day 1

During the month of April, I am taking the A-Z alphabet challenge. Each day except Sundays, my blog will feature a letter, beginning with A. I will examine a specific word, and how it is interwoven into a moment, a portion or part, or all of my life experience. Join me on this journey through the alphabet of life!

A to Z Badge

Ahead. I have always wanted, or needed, to know what is ahead.

Years ago, I attended a retreat for the soul annually. A small group of women gathered at a magnificent mountain home for a week where we were challenged to consider deeply a few things about our lives. We spent time in solitude, time together, time in Bible study and time in prayer.

Each morning, we joined our leader for a walk through the neighborhood. Fast paced and invigorating, we followed D, our leader, who knew the area intimately and never paused. One morning on year three, as we walked in our pack, we were approaching an intersection and I quietly said, “D, which way up there?”

whichway

D never missed a step in the brisk walk, but she said, “S? Did you realize that you are the only one who asks which way next?”

She was right. I was the only one who asked, prior to getting to every intersection, which way was next. I was startled, somewhat embarrassed.

Ahead…I wanted, needed to know what was ahead.

That resonated in my soul…for years…and in reality if I’d known what was ahead, I would have opted for a different direction. But ahead, although fraught with searing pain and crushing struggles, outlined in beauty and joy and amazing humans…ultimately led to a place I never knew existed, and that I would definitely not want to miss.

Ahead…in retrospect, I didn’t want and couldn’t need to know, but I’m glad to be going there.

Ahead

 

Better Plans

When I was a young teen, my father was a professor at the University of Colorado for a couple of years. We lived in the amazing, green-belt-wrapped town/city of Boulder, tucked neatly into the valley with the beautiful Rockies looming to the west, and foothills part of the landscape.

There were strong winds that swept down over Boulder off this eastern slope of the mountains. Winds that were called the chinook – after the Pacific Native Americans – and, according to the Earth Systems Research Laboratory, are some of the highest peak winds in the entire country. The winds were sometimes strong enough to blow roofs off, down trees and melt a foot of snow in less than an hour. But for the most part, the chinook was something brief and interesting and part of the lore of living in Boulder.

boulderco2

So for Christmas one year, my parents had rented a condo at a ski resort for a week. Believe it or not, the day before we were leaving, it was in the mid-70s in Boulder – a perfect day to lay out in the backyard in my bikini and get a tan. Dad was at work, and mom was running around getting last minute items for the trip, and our house was filled with a crew of 4-5 men painting the living room and dining room. I was on my lounge chair, soaking up the sun and the phone rang…and this was prior to cell phones that are perched by our sides…so I jumped up and ran to the door…a sliding glass door…and grabbed the handle to slide it open with my right hand touching the glass with my left hand…and

CRASH

The entire 72 x 80 inch door shattered with a deafening sound. Shards of glass were there – inside the door and outside the door and sticking out of various places on my body.

slidingdoor

I was stunned, shocked, completely confused how this could have happened. I did not fly into the door with my body weight, or press hard on the door with my left hand. I opened it the same way I always opened it, lightly touching the door with my left finger tips to stabilize the opening procedure while pulling on the handle with my right, yet this time the door lay in little pieces all around me. Then I realized that numerous places on my hands and legs and feet were bleeding…some small spots of blood, but a couple quite vigorously.

I ran into the kitchen (to this day have no idea who was on the phone), turned on the sink, threw my heavily-bleeding-hand under the sink while telling the very-shocked-painters to hand me some paper towels that I pressed onto my worst-bleeding-foot wound with the other foot. They began to sort-of-panic (isn’t that just like men? Sorry, didn’t mean to be sexist, but I guess I really did) and I took the role of calming them down.

So why this story? There was no man involved, no relationship, no HUSBAND or cheating or loving or even family-of-origin stories here.

Right after the door crashed down, everyone (mostly my parents) blamed me. It was surely my teen-crazed desire to answer the phone…I had crashed into the door…I had wrenched the door open with force. I replayed the incident over and over and over in my head while nurturing the physical wounds, and knew this was not so. Eventually, we learned that it was very likely the glass had been weakened and bore cracks and fissures due to the winds…cracks we couldn’t see…cracks that were actually the cause of the shattering which could have happened to anyone.

Some have suggested that for me to go back and examine my marriage may cause more pain, stunt healing or lead to self-blame. For me, on DDAY, I was the glass door. I looked healthy and clear and shiny with no cracks or hints of instability. But it wasn’t true. And as much as I am me, and I am separate from HUSBAND, WHICH I FULLY BELIEVE, because we were married we were also inextricably woven into one in a mystery I cannot fully understand, so any brokenness in him really was brokenness in me. Those crazy chinook winds had blown over and in my life and over and in his life and over and in our life, and left microscopic cracks and fissures and schisms that I glossed over or thought would be better tomorrow or could not see because they were just so small…but then

CRASH

The entire 27 year marriage of HUSBAND and me came crashing down. Shards of my life were strewn across the years and the dreams and the reality of all that I was.

That gaping hole where the door once stood, where the marriage once stood, has to be rebuilt. It could be a single-hung glass, or perhaps a double-pane, but either way if it is going to stand the chinook bearing down again and again as life does, I want to understand how the original construction allowed those cracks and fissures to form. I want to change the plans, to be able to withstand the winds and not be in danger of shattering again, and to do so, I am willing to take apart every bit of the process and rebuild step-by-step with stronger, smarter, better parts. In my case, HUSBAND also wants that for himself, which is what is allowing us to consider remaining married, to work toward a whole marriage which I can see now, we never had before. If he wasn’t willing to invest and to dedicate his heart and mind and being to both going back with brutal honesty, and moving forward with humble bareness, I would be on this journey alone. Because that is what I am doing, and now, we are doing – going back with brutal honesty, and moving forward with humble bareness.

Looking back, for me, is the only way to build forward.

foundation

 

A Breakthrough, Literally. And Figuratively.

On the day of the biggest storms our country has seen in some time – yesterday – Jan 23, 2016 – I got to fly across the country. I was scheduled to fly on a three-legged trip that would take a total of 9 hours…and because of closures, etc, my flight was rerouted and it was all a mess.

My own southern east coast city had gotten some of the storm impact…cloudy. Dank. Cold. Even a few flurries. As the plane taxied out on the tarmac, I was struck by how dismal it all looked. The low hanging clouds appeared ready to dump, and it felt like there was a thick, heavy blanket covering the whole world that created a dim cast every direction. The plane taxied, took off, and defying the grayness of it all, an odd orange glow seemed to ring the edges of the world, surprising my senses.

overcast skies

As we ascended, the dull gray continued. Then we were surrounded by the nothingness, covered in the clouds and looking out any window in any direction was met with a wall of swirling gray. Simultaneously, the plane began to shudder and shake and for a short moment it was even scary. Then.

We broke through.

The plane soared through the top of the cloud canopy and there was a crystal clear, blue sky with a bright, shining sun. As we continued to climb, the clouds looked puffy, white, soft, compelling. I was moved to tears, because it all looked like my life.

over the clouds

The clouds, the beautiful clouds on one side were like my life that appeared lovely and appealing. Yet on the other side of the clouds, the side that really was my life, it was daunting and oppressive and dim. The only way to see that, though, to really understand the full nature of the clouds, was to go through the turbulence…to go right damn through…so I could see both sides. We are living in a place now, able to see the clouds that appeared beautiful but were really full of treachery, as a real thing. Yet there is a sun, and it does shine. Apart from the clouds on the illusory or devastating side.

Not sure if I’m making sense, but I really was astounded and felt like I was experiencing a living visual of the journey of my life. Of many of our lives. Onward, brave travelers.

Going Back In Order To Go Forward.

Resolutions. Made with fanfare, broken in silence.

It seems that the habit of some of us humans is to make grandiose gestures of great promise, then to quietly walk away from any direction that may take us closer to realizing those dreams. At least that has been my habit. Over, and over, and over.

New Year’s Eve/Day is such a profound example of this, and we do it year after year. We make our declarations, and within days, weeks…or if we are one of the real persistent ones, months…we have broken our intentions of loving more authentically or eating more healthy or exercising more regularly or or or or… Why? Why do we repeat this ritual despite it not bearing the fruit we pretend to desire?

Maybe one of the problems is we fail to reflect back before we try to move on. If you consider physical laws, it takes backward pressure to launch forward…a runner rocks back slightly before the sound of the gun, a basketball player bends his knees downward before he leaps in the air, the quarterback draws his arm backward before launching the ball in a pass.

I know for me, when I began the journey of betrayed spouse, I was immobilized. For the first time ever in my life, my type A personality was completely shut down. Frozen. I had no earthly idea how to do anything other than breathe, and even that was difficult. Then, I was compelled by something bigger than me and I looked back. No…I really LOOKED BACK, trying to see not what I thought I had seen, but what was really there. Slowly, it began to unravel…as one layer peeled off, I looked into the face of the man that had shared my life for 27 years and realized I had no idea who he was. The man I thought I knew could never ever do the things this man had done. I LOOKED back, and questioned every part of my life, gathered all the pieces of the puzzle that I could find and began to try to put it back together. So much of it was tarnished, and chipped, and off-kilter…but I couldn’t see that before…but I could see it now…

Painful. Excruciatingly painful to look back with new eyes, revealed eyes.

They say we know. Other women declare that we must know they are fucking our husbands. One of the women I follow said recently that she goes to a counselor who’s been dealing with infidelity for over 35 years and THE WIFE ALWAYS KNOWS.

No. I. Did. Not. Know.

I would not have been afraid to confront. I would not have quietly stayed in my marriage knowing my husband was a cheater because I was afraid or needed his financial support or thought the kids would be better off or any other reason.

I stayed in my marriage because I never dreamed that he could or would cheat on me, and if things were tense or there was space in our relationship, I believed it was life, and we were life, we were married, we were in it together. Relationships ebb and flow, good times/bad times, intimate times/disconnected times. It literally never remotely occurred to me that my husband contacted, called, texted, video messaged, met with, slept with, planned with, dreamed with another woman. Ever. Even writing these words now takes my breath away, because it is hard for me to believe.

Before I knew of infidelity, I stayed in my marriage even in hard times because I loved him.

So…looking back…there are so many missing pieces. I can’t even complete the edges, put the border together, because the very foundation of the person I was married has holes. Initially, I became desperate to figure out those gaps, desiring to understand what the picture REALLY looked like, and I sat in that place for a long time.

I am not desperate anymore, although some of the pieces have not been easy to find, and honestly, there are still holes that I want to fill.

shattered-heart-1

So on the threshold of a New Year, I will continue to look back, but am also moving forward. I’ve learned that for me, I want to know – I want to confront – I want to look at the good, bad and ugly – and I want to dream in real-color of what the future can be. That is what I am looking forward to in 2016, as odd as it sounds: grasping in truth the missing pieces that I need to be whole, and creating the more beautiful future in which I play a role in shaping the puzzle pieces.

I hope, for you, an astounding 2016.